Ensuring that workers do only jobs they’re trained for is critical in industrial safety. An untrained worker who botches a job can do a lot of damage.

But in the rush to get things done, proper vetting can get overlooked. How can supervisors in the field know for sure about whether a particular worker is qualified to do a specific task or operate a certain piece of machinery? It’s challenging on the factory floor and even more so in the field.

Mobile tech plus ID card

Paper files aren’t accessible in the field and get outdated fast. The worker who claims he was trained for a certain task may be exaggerating. A paper file in a file cabinet somewhere isn’t up to date or accessible.

Storing training credentials on a central computer system is a step up, but onsite bosses generally don’t have access to such a database, and they’re rarely designed for mobile access. Phoning or emailing to ask someone in HR to check credentials is obviously slow and unreliable.

A smart, comprehensive and effective verification system starts with the fact that every worker has an ID card. If you can use their ID card, or an ID bracelet, to tap into a database to verify the worker’s training, you have a versatile solution.

The solution requires integrating four technologies: mobile, cloud, database and QR code.

It all starts with imprinting a quick response (QR) code on the cards. A QR code is a simple, reliable and inexpensive technology that works with any phone or tablet.

The QR code imprinted on each employee’s photo ID card identifies the employee.  The ID card with a QR code can actually replace most if not all of the many cards that workers may carry.

The next step is to create a comprehensive database of employee training records. The data usually exists already but it must be stored in a usable form that can be accessed anywhere.  There must be a single repository for all safety-training records, including qualifications from both internal sources and external providers. Employee training profiles can be created one-by-one or uploaded from a spreadsheet.

Next, the database must be stored in the cloud for reliable access to the data from the field 24/7.  The cloud ensures that authorized users can access it with any device, anywhere.  

Now, the QR code on the card must be linked to the database of employee training records stored in the cloud.  Each worker is assigned a unique identifier embedded in the QR code to avoid any possible confusion.  The QR code will be easily scannable by any phone for instantaneous access.  The QR code also avoids the need for typing numbers.

You need an efficient way to record every training session and credential the worker has completed.  Trainers can email or fax the names of employees and training completed to whoever is in charge of the database.  That works, but there’s a better way.

A smartphone app can eliminate the errors and delays associated with the mud-stained paper sign-in sheet. The app lets authorized trainers automatically record attendees who have completed courses. The trainer just scans the QR code on the badge of each employee to instantly update their training records or enters the employee’s ID number. 

With all the pieces in place, the supervisor simply scans the ID card with a smartphone or tablet to read the QR code. The employee’s current training records are then displayed on the screen, securely and reliably. Basic information includes credential name, date attained and expiration date. For some companies, that’s sufficient. Others may want to add more information, such as the trainer or issuing authority, license number and type of training.

Another important feature of a comprehensive system is the ability to alert the employee and/or manager that a credential will soon be expiring, so that and recertification training can be scheduled with plenty of advance notice.

Site security and safety equipment monitoring

A card-based system can be extended to let managers track in real time all employees and contractors who are entering a worksite. To make it work, the ID card must include radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip.  To gain entry, the individual just places the card within an inch of an RFID reader.

Monitoring personal protective equipment usage is another application. Authorized employees can scan the QR code on the employee’s card with a tablet or smartphone to log each checkout of a respirator mask, a climbing harness, eye and hearing protection, or other safety equipment. The card is scanned again to display the employee’s past usage of safety equipment.

The database is instantly updated to record each usage. Managers can easily download a complete spreadsheet of all equipment checked out, by employee, to meet regulatory reporting requirements.

The main reason for monitoring is to make sure workers are always using the right equipment. Additionally, recent OSHA silica regulations require companies to track the usage of respirator masks. If an employee uses a mask more than 30 times a year, he or must receive a specialized medical checkup.With today’s technology, there’s no reason not to check worker training and verify credentials consistently. It’s no longer slow, inconvenient and reliable. Integrating various technologies on the foundation of an ID card offers a big step up in safety and compliance.